July 6, 2016

What to Do with the Tears of a Broken Heart: Bodhichitta ‘Em.

Flickr/Metro Centric

“This continual ache of the heart is a blessing that, when accepted fully, can be shared with all.” ~ Pema Chodron


Warm, salty tears rolled down my cheeks for two days.

They just kept coming. These drops fell from eyelids, got stuck on lashes, and then made their way down my still face. They landed in laps, on breasts, on chests and in pillows. They created warm pools of emotion everywhere I went—evidence, surely, of a breaking heart.

Sometimes life is so good, we need to let it be known that we feel it. Other times, life is so painful, we are no longer able to hold it in. Most of the time, tears come just because we are alive.

There is a pulse that vibes under our daily existence. There is a rhythm, a rattle and a beat. We feel it when we are deeply moved. We know it when we are instantly inspired. It is a thing much bigger than us–-Life. I try surrendering to the wisdom in it that knows: tears need no explanation, nor do they require a clean up crew.

These precious jewels are the sign of a heart cracking open. This is a good thing.

This occurrence is something that mystics have talked about for centuries. It is the appearance of the soft spot, the affected and warmhearted warrior. In Buddhism, the word that is used to describe this is Bodhichitta-–“bodhi” meaning enlightened or completely open and “chitta” meaning heart or mind.

Pema Chodron talks about this experience as the awakened heart or the heart of sadness.

I discovered this teaching several years ago, at a time when I could not understand my tears. I didn’t get why grief was simply flowing through me. I had nothing particular to be sad about—no one had died, I had a home, food and money—but there was this deep softness opening up, and it only increased.

The heart of sadness hits me over the head again, as I reach the tail-end of a three-week retreat. I sit and let the tears fall, one by one. I feel both my heart and life moving me immensely.

When we come into the moment, we can’t help but feel heartache; the realization that everything will constantly change— be it a person, a job, the breath or our youth—life is always moving on.

This heart break is a normal reaction to being human. It’s here to serve as a tender spot to connect us to each other. Often, it is something we feel and quickly deny. It is the softness laying beneath our busy lives.

So tears, if we have them, can be a soul cleanse; one good, awakened purge—or many. We don’t have to ask tears why? Instead, we can turn toward their deep art of expression as a teaching. They are valued drops in our well of life.

If our heart overflows when others move us, when nature stirs or a perfect breeze twirls a wisp of our hair—let it. Tears are here with purpose.

Cry with arrivals, or departures, or just because we hear a new bird song.

The awakening heart is a beautiful thing—enjoy it.

Wrap up in a blanket, with a cup of tea, and let the gentle sobs come. They are delicate messengers, a perfume of tenderness, ancient wisdom and love. Revel in the experience. It is Bodhichitta calling, Pema knows. 

With it, we offer the blooming of our soul.

I am affected.

You move me.

The world touches us—of this, we can be proud.

As tears roll down, don’t do anything. They are not here to scare or punish or make uncomfortable. They are here to understand the regular, human heart.

Cherish the sparkling jewels. They clear a path for something real—connection.

I let mine roll out these past few days. I allow them to create puffy eyes and softened skin.

If we think to be ashamed of tears, remember they are a badge of courage—the bravery of a heart and life opening.

Don’t be afraid of this broken heartedness.

Honor these tears. Love each one. They have come to transform us. To crack what we thought was solid. To remind us of what we really are—soft, unfolding, presence.


Author: Sarah Norrad

Image: Flickr/Metro Centric

Editors: Yoli Ramazzina; Catherine Monkman

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